Jim Crace 1946–-
British short story writer, novelist, and journalist.
The following entry presents an overview of Crace's short fiction career through 2002.
Crace is viewed as one of the more original and admired fiction writers in England. His two short fiction collections, Continent (1986) and The Devil's Larder (2000), are noted for their imaginative premises and settings and spare, straightforward language.
On March 1, 1946, Crace was born in Brocket Hall, Lemsford, Herefordshire, England. He grew up in north London and attended the Birmingham College of Commerce (now the University of Central England). In 1968 he received a B.A. from the University of London. After graduation he volunteered overseas, initially as a producer and writer for the Sudanese Educational Television in Khartoum, then as an English instructor in Botswana. In 1970 he returned to England and began his career as a radio and print journalist. During the 1970s he began to write fiction and published three short stories in The New Review. The third of these stories, “Cross-Country,” appeared in the magazine in April 1976; it also became the beginning of his first collection of short stories, Continent. The book, considered by some reviewers to be a novel, received several awards, including the Whitbread Award for first novel, the David Higham Prize for Fiction, and the Guardian Fiction Prize. Crace lives with his family in Birmingham, England, and continues to publish fiction and articles for periodicals and newspapers.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Crace's reputation as a short fiction writer is based on his two collections of short stories, Continent and The Devil's Larder. Classified by some critics as a novel, Continent is a collection of seven interrelated stories set on an imaginary continent modeled after the Third World. The stories chronicle the technological, political, and cultural development of the region, focusing on the tension of the old, traditional ways being replaced by technology or being exploited by foreigners. For example, “Sins and Virtues” explores the dilemma of a village calligrapher whose obscure art suddenly becomes fashionable in the West. Pressured by his government into working harder and faster, the calligrapher turns to forgery and deception to fulfill expectations. In “Electricity,” electricity is introduced to a small, backward town with tragicomic results. Crace's next collection, The Devil's Larder, is comprised of sixty-four untitled stories. The pieces are very short—ranging from a single paragraph to ten pages long—and are thematically connected by the role of food and sensual gratification in people's lives.
Crace's work has garnered significant critical attention. Some critics laud his imagination and find his stories to be provocative, clever, and insightful. Reviewers also praise his language in both collections as lucid and lyrical. Detractors contend that his stories are detached, monotonous, and too carefully crafted. Moreover, they note the lack of depth and energy in his stories. Yet despite these negative assessments, Crace is regarded as one of England's most highly esteemed contemporary authors. Several critics have detected the influence of Italo Calvino, J. M. Coetzee, and Jorge Luis Borges in Crace's short stories.